Reflections from my back porch

This column was originally published on Roger Waldron’s blog at The Coalition for Government Procurement and was republished here with permission from the author.

It has now been a little over a month since the Coalition staff started working from home. At times, the logistics have been challenging, but I am very grateful and proud of what the team has accomplished to keep you all informed regarding the government’s response to COVID-19. While at the same time, keeping you up-to-date on ongoing programs, like Schedules Consolidation, MSPV-NG and 2.0, OASIS, GSA’s commercial e-commerce initiative, and NIH’s CIO-SP4. You have our commitment to continue to serve as the bridge between government and industry during these unprecedented times.

As many of you may know, the screened porch has become my home office. I am sharing my office space with our dog, Larry “Bird” Waldron. As a life-long Celtics fan, the name speaks for itself. Besides, look at the picture and tell me he doesn’t look a little bit like Larry Bird. Larry and I enjoy the day together. Instead of the excited, tail-wagging greetings every night when I get home from work, now he just hangs out with me, waiting for the next treat. I wonder if he is a bit perplexed (in a good way) with everyone home (and on the screened porch) ALL THE TIME. You know, a dog loves you because you are you. I love Larry “Bird” Waldron, and I know his love is unconditional.

 

 

Sitting here and surveying the yard, I have been thinking about our current situation. Here are some reflections:

  • The procurement system is the backbone of government operations. It provides critical support to all missions and functions. In times of crisis, like 9/11 and the Great Recession, the procurement system has been foundational to the government’s response and our nation’s recovery. We are seeing that again today.
  • Transparency and communication are vital to effective procurement operations. The government (DoD, GSA, VA, DHS, and HHS, among others) has been doing yeoman’s work keeping the industrial base informed and up to date regarding changes in procurement processes, policies, and requirements in response to COVID-19.
  • The next challenge in the logistics system will likely be increasing demand for PPE across industries, like food processing/delivery, transport, and mail services, as well as traditional demand in manufacturing, ship building, and equipment repair industries supporting DoD and others.
  • I’m thankful that the pandemic hasn’t affected our supply of Ho-Hos, but why is it getting harder to tie the drawstring on my sweats?
  • On-going work continues, and industry has appreciated GSA and the VA’s engagement regarding ongoing projects, like Schedules Consolidation and the MSPV-NG program. Continuity of operations builds confidence in the future.
  • Over the long term, GSA’s approach regarding its e-commerce procurement appears to run counter to current Administration and Congressional perspectives regarding the supply chain and national security. As we learn more every day regarding the supply chain strategic and tactical risks associated with the response to COVID-19, the lack of transparency (country of origin) requirements and measures to address the integrity of the e-commerce market (Trade Agreements Act, Section 889) seems counter to the long-term security of the federal market and government operations.
  • Indeed, with Administrative and Legislative initiatives underway to re-orient our supply chains back to the U.S. or, at least, to allied nations, introducing the risk associated with opening e-commerce pipelines to near-peer adversaries seems counterintuitive.
  • GSA can point to no contract clause, policy, directive, or data to support its conclusion that its new class of privileged contractors, the e-marketplace contractors, will not undermine its compliance-based MAS program and other IDIQ contracts.
  • One wonders what lessons for the federal procurement system will arise from the COVID-19 attack. We could see a changed regulatory environment, with increased focus and requirements concerning supply chain risk (g. country of origin). Likewise, changed federal requirements could ripple through the commercial market (in this regard, think of the impact of Section 889).
  • Of course, we all have become aware of the unsung heroes in our communities, like grocery workers; postal workers and employees that deliver food; nurses; EMTs; doctors; and a host of others. I have come to appreciate more than ever the beat writers of our trade press that we sometimes take for granted. Their expertise and commitment to digging into the details of a story really contributes to the education of our community, which is necessary for reasoned debate on policy issues.
  • While many are wondering when work will return to “normal,” some of us have to ask what was normal, and what will be our new normal. Thanks to technological innovation, powerful collaboration tools have expanded, not only the power of our performance, but also our preexisting conception of the office. Since moving to virtual work activity, the Coalition has received countless messages from members recognizing our seamless substantive performance. Doubtless that other offices have had similar experiences, leading us all to re-assess the configuration of common office space.
  • Have I mentioned I miss sports? In consolation, I have been re-watching the many Patriots Super Bowl and playoff victories. I miss Tom Brady already!
  • Rapid and consistent access to the commercial market will continue to be vital to leveraging innovative healthcare solutions to this crisis. How will this reshape government-industry engagement?

On a serious note, I ask that you please keep all essential workers in your thoughts and prayers as they take care of our health needs, provide our food, and respond to our emergencies. Please also say a prayer for all those we have lost or who are suffering as a result of COVID-19.

We are all in this together. Stay safe and healthy.